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"Along Spain Creek: Volume 1"

My first book,

"Along Spain Creek: Volume 1"

is available now on Amazon.com

in paperback or Kindle editions.

Small town humor, pathos, mystery, people,

places and things are all to be found in this

first volume of stories, experiences, tall tales,

and historical notes.

The trilogy continues!
Along Spain Creek: Volume 2,
is now available on Amazon.com
in standard paperback or Kindle editions.
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Along Spain Creek: Volume 2
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Along Spain Creek: Volume 3
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Coming in October 2014!

Coping With, Challenging, and Conquering Cancer
This book will recount the author's personal battle against
metastatic melanoma cancer,
from inception in 1998 to the declaration
of "cancer free" in 2005.
The book will include timely information about
cancer-related resources and preventative measures.
It will prove helpful to readers who face cancer in their
own lives, or in the lives of their loved ones.
Coming in December 2014!
Second Benjamin
This is an historical novel, set within the era of
the Civil War and its aftermath.
It is the story of one patriot's journey from
rural Ohio to the battles in which he participated,
and of the sacrifices he endured along the way.
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through the West Liberty (Ohio) Methodist Church

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16-Month "Along Spain Creek" Calendar
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Trip to the Columbus Zoo


ield trips were an important part of every elementary school curriculum during the 1950s-1960s.  Students marched out of school buildings and into waiting yellow school busses for the generally short ride to area attractions in an effort to expose young children to “culture.”  There were trips to museums, manufacturing plants, special art exhibits, and other activities of the day.  None, however, was ever as historic as the 1950s visits to the Columbus Zoo, Columbus, Ohio, and the encounter with Colo, the young gorilla.

Colo was a Western Gorilla, born on December 22, 1956, at the Columbus Zoo.  The baby’s birth demanded worldwide media coverage because Colo was the first gorilla born anywhere in the world in captivity.

People flocked from all over the United States and other parts of the world to see the precious baby gorilla.  Many participated in a contest to name the gorilla.  The name Colo was eventually chosen as it incorporated some of the letters from the word “Columbus.”

Schools scheduled student trips from various areas of Ohio to Columbus so kids could see the famous gorilla.  The big yellow busses traveled from the schools to a huge parking area specifically assigned for that purpose which was in close proximity to the building where Colo was exhibited.  Many thousands of kids made the trip to the site, and often more than once.  Some schools scheduled yearly visits to the place, generally in May during the closing days of the school academic year. 

The ride from the Triad School District was generally about one-and-one-half hours from North Lewisburg, or Woodstock, or Cable.  Kids kept themselves amused on the busses with conversations, jokes, songs, and lots of laughter and other noise.  Each usually carried a sack lunch, or a carefully packed lunchbox, filled with traditional sandwiches, fruit, milk, juice, and some kind of snack.  Kids also carried “spending money,” limited funds so they could purchase other items while on the zoo grounds.  But, most importantly, the money was intended to pay for the tickets which were required to “ride the rides” at the well-equipped amusement park.  Everybody planned to ride!  But first came the compulsory visit to see Colo.

Some of the kids…especially the girls…found the little gorilla “cute,” or “cuddly,” or “adorable.”  Most of the boys took a cursory look at the little and then moved out of the way so other kids could crowd up to the plate glass window while they awaited the “all clear” which would permit them to take off in small groups to explore the rest of the zoo, or…more importantly…the rides in the amusement park.

Kids and adult guides generally gathered somewhere familiar to all for the mandatory lunch period.  Foods were quickly consumed or conveniently tossed away so the kids could get back to the real task of the day…a return to the rides!  The smart ones had already taken advantage of the earlier opportunity to ride the gut-retching roller coaster or other popular rides.  They then rarely faced the after-lunch vomiting sessions which often accompanied the more demanding rides.

At the appointed time, the kids reassembled with their adult chaperones.  Heads were counted, names were checked off of lists, and everyone boarded the busses for the return trip home.  Upon arrival back at the school, kids were dismissed to make their way home to share the day’s adventures with parents and siblings.

Colo, the object of affection for so many students over the years, has lived an active life at the Columbus Zoo.  More than five generations of the great apes have been born and raised at the zoo, many of them Colo’s descendants.  In December, 2014, Colo will celebrate her 58th birthday at the Columbus Zoo.  Perhaps it will be time for many of us “kids” to make a return visit to that popular spot to pay tribute for this truly amazing matron.  




enefits of large, extended families include cousins.  It is wonderful to be a part of a family of several siblings, and of parents who were members of large families.  This often means that our lives are graced with young people of like ages who share the same ancestors.

 There were six children born to my grandparents, Carl and Katie Impson…two daughters and four sons.  One of the boys, Carl Junior, died as an infant.  Harold, Burnham, and John Robert all grew to manhood, and were the fathers of families.  Harold was the father of three boys, to include twin sons:  Harold Junior, Richard, and Robert.  Sadly, both Harold Junior and Richard died as infants, but Robert (or “Little Bob” as we called him) grew to maturity, married, and was father of sons Justin and Jacob, and daughter Nicole.  Jacob and Nicole are twins.

Burnham Emery Impson was the father of three boys, including one who died just a day after his birth.  Sons Gilbert and Richard “Rick” Impson matured as did Burnham’s daughter Valerie.  Gilbert had no children; Rick was the father of three sons, namely Derek, Brad and Christopher, and one daughter, Tiffany.  Coincidentally, brothers Gilbert and Rick both died of liver cancer exactly one year apart.

John Robert “Bobby” Impson was the father of four sons:  Steven, Timothy, Thomas, and Terry

 Daughters of Carl and Katie Impson were Henrietta Lucille, and Kathleen Irene Impson, my mother.  Aunt Henrietta was the mother of five children:  Betty Ruth, Carl, Phillip, Linda and Roberta Jean Evans.  Betty Ruth was the mother of Kati Sue Dixon.  Carl was father to two sons, Ralph Benjamin and Carl David Evans, and two daughters, Linda Jean and Merrie Ruth Evans.  Phillip was the father of two sons, Mark Allen and Brian Evans, and one daughter, Joni Rae Evans.  Henrietta’s daughter Linda was the mother of one daughter, Candice Jean Cline.  Henrietta’s other daughter, Roberta Jean, was the mother of daughters Angela Kaye and Holly Lynn Van Hoose, and son Robert Todd Van Hoose.

Kathleen Irene Impson, daughter of Carl and Katie Impson, was the mother of six children:  Charma Lee, David Marvin, and Norma Lavonne Conard, Ralph Lowell Coleman, Jr., Cheryl Kay Forsythe, and James Robert “Jim” Forsythe.  Our branch of the Impson tree was very prolific.  Charma was the mother of six daughters.  David was the father of six sons, to include twins.  Norma was the mother of one son and one daughter.  Cheryl was the mother of two sons and two daughters.  Jim fathered no children.  And then there was me, father of four sons and four daughters, to include identical twin daughters.

When we all gathered at Grandpa and Grandma Impson’s to celebrate major events…like their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1959…we could not use their home; it was simply too small.  Such events were held in the old fire department building, across Sycamore Street from the old Town Hall.  Even there, there were many, many people crowded into a very, very small space.  A simple body count demonstrates what I mean.

Start with Grandpa and Grandma…that’s 2 adults.  Add their five surviving children…that’s 7 adults plus their spouses (an additional 5 adults)…that’s 12 adults.   But, now all of those “cousins” must be added to the mix…another 63 or so, for a total of 70 or more people.  But, wait a minute, several of those were fathers or mothers of yet another generation of kids…first cousins once removed…  So the potential was there for a crowd of 80-100 people!  And even more with “first cousins twice removed” and so on.  It would be difficult to have a family gathering without distributing programs to list all of the potential players!

So, family gatherings in small towns like North Lewisburg, or Woodstock, or Cable, or Mingo are actually big affairs.  They are reunions, stocked with aunts and uncles and cousins.  Some are held on an annual basis, with an entire weekend devoted to the gathering.  Others are held less often, many times associated with weddings or funerals.

The Impson side of the family gathered primarily for major events…like the celebration of 25-year,  50-year, and 60-year wedding anniversaries.  The Coleman side of the family…well, for a long period of time, dating back to the turn of the 20th Century to the 1970s, the Colemans and Bruners and Shafers gathered every August somewhere to renew acquaintances.  A huge potluck dinner, games of every sort, a softball game, horseshoe pitching, and a myriad of other activities were planned to provide entertainment for the hundreds of family members who arrived to participate.  It was a phenomenal event, as participants came from all over the Midwest to take part in it.  I remember going to many of these sessions as a young boy, and often meeting relatives for the first…and possibly only…time.  It was great fun, very interesting, and the food was the stuff of legends!

Sadly, the interest in reunions began to wane for the Impson, and Coleman, and Bruner, and Shafer families by the 1980s.  People were suddenly “too busy” to set aside one Sunday in August to gather as a clan.  Cousins lost contact with cousins.  Entire families lost contact with other families.  Our extended families shrunk as distances and time pulled us apart.

Now, many cousins don’t know each other; they have never met.  They learn about each other by accident.  As an example, when I traveled to Ohio in 2009, I ate regularly at the old Hiway 559 restaurant location.  One of the girls who worked there took my meal orders on a daily basis.  We had no interaction except the conversation which was involved in placing my order.  Only after I returned to my own home, nearly 1800 miles away, did I learn that the girl  was my relative…granddaughter of my older “half-sister,” who had died several years before this.  The fact that I did not know at that time that we were related saddened me when I eventually learned that.

Since 2009 I have communicated with a great many cousins.  It is impossible to make up for all of the lost years.  But, it is quite interesting to learn about the many entangling relationships to be found in small towns.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

New Blogs Each Sunday Evening!

There will be NEW blogs posted on this site each and every Sunday evening, after 6:00 PM MDT.  Older posts will then be archived.  You can retrieve them by going to the Along Spain Creek Archives on the bottom left side of this site.

I hope you will return again and again to read about the people, places, and things which I love along Spain Creek!

Jack, the Ass

Jack, the Ass


hen I was a pre-teen, I rode many times with my maternal grandfather, Carl Emery Impson, as he discharged his duties as township driver for Rush Township.  He and I walked from the north end of North Lewisburg to the township trustee office and garage, located at the south end of Gregory Street.  It was fun to hike along with grandpa as we traversed the distance between his home and workplace.  Although he was often reticent, there were occasions when he talked freely about himself, the family, his job, and the community in general.  I especially enjoyed those moments when he loosened up, and imparted his knowledge to me.  He loved to talk politics.  A staunch, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, he never failed to blast the Republicans…from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to those elected to public office at the county level...and I never took offense at what he had to say.  I think he knew that I was a Republican-in-the-making, and even though I was very young, he liked to “rattle my cage.”  He voted a straight Democratic ticket from the time of Woodrow Wilson until his death in 1969.

 Sometimes, his reticence was broken in the most unusual ways.  His comments often had nothing to do with whatever we were discussing at the time…they just came “out of the blue…” and surprised me.  Quite often, the remarks left me dumbfounded; I simply did not know what to say in return.  Many times I said nothing at all.

I remember that we once walked past the home of my friend, Robert “Skipper” Lantz on one of those early-morning forays    Skipper was about one or two years older than me, and lived less than a block away.    As we passed the house, Grandpa suddenly shared an observation with me.  “That Skipper,” he said, “likes the girls.  He’s especially fond of their breasts.”  This was one of those times in which I found myself speechless.

When we arrived at the township garage, Grandpa unlocked the side door so we could enter.  He puttered around for a bit as he gathered up work gloves and other items he thought he would need during the day.  He loaded those things, to include his battered black, metal lunchbox and thermos, and Fanny, his faithful companion mixed-breed dog, into the cab of the vehicle.  He opened the garage door, and drove the township’s dump truck out of the building.  He dismounted, and checked the tires carefully while he walked completely around the vehicle as he looked for damages or potential dangers.  He raised the hood and checked the oil and other fluid levels.  Satisfied that all was as it should be, he returned to the building, made sure the side door was locked, and closed the garage door.  I climbed aboard, just barely able to nudge Fanny from her special area on the truck’s bench seat, closed my door, and watched with interest as Grandpa pushed on the clutch pedal and put the truck into gear.  Off we went, as he used to say, “like a herd of turtles!”

 Grandpa had specific things planned as his work load for any particular day of the week.  Sometimes he drove around the township roads as he checked for potential trouble spots…places where holes in the pavement needed to be patched, or signs which needed to be straightened or replaced altogether, or ditches which became clogged with weeds or debris.  Sometimes he drove over roads which had been recently repaved to see how well the top layer of gravel adhered to the tar below.  Sometimes he drove to Woodstock Cemetery, or Maple Grove Cemetery just as a courtesy drive-through to see if repairs needed to be made.  As one of the sextons of the township’s cemeteries his additional duties there included opening and closing new gravesites, and mowing the vast expanses of lawn on a regular basis.

 On this day, Grandpa’s task was a bit more involved.  Drivers from other townships within Champaign County often worked to help each other.  When roads were to be resurfaced in one township, the trustees of other townships often dispatched their drivers to assist in the work.  Later, when similar work was required in Rush Township, the drivers from other townships reciprocated.  It was a good system, and as a result the townships throughout the county were able to maintain the many miles of township-regulated roads.  Now, Grandpa drove us to Urbana Township to help resurface a few miles of roads.  We arrived at the designated spot just as other drivers likewise arrived.  There was a great deal of handshaking and back pats as the men welcomed each other.  There were conversations, and loud laughter, and general camaraderie as the men, old friends, gathered.  Many had met like this many, many times over the years.

Everyone gathered this time to assist the Urbana Township driver.  His nickname was “Peck.”  I have long since forgotten his surname.  But, he made a good impression on me when I first met him years before.  He was a kindly man, probably in his late fifties, with a great personality, smile, and sense of humor.  He was one of Grandpa Impson’s friends, so he had immediately become one of mine. 

Soon the asphalt truck arrived, with its very hot cargo of tar.  The township trucks were filled with gravel.  The work convoy moved into place as the asphalt truck dispatched hot tar upon the road surface.  One of the dump trucks, fitted with a special spreader box, lagged a short distance behind, and slowly dumped gravel into the spreader which then distributed it neatly to the waiting road surface.  This process went on and on for hours, with slight delays as one truck was disengaged from the spreader and as another truck took its place.  The work was like a coordinated ballet, choreographed as different parts of the scene changed.  Grandpa was soon hooked up to the spreader, drove his truck in reverse as the gravel moved from truck to spreader to roadway…followed by a huge road roller which compacted the gravel into the tar and bonded the surface.  His bed empty, the spreader was unattached, and Grandpa drove his truck out of line so the next truck took his place.

The empty trucks were systematically driven to a nearby gravel pit…a work area dug out of one of the many, many gravel hills which dotted the landscape in Champaign County.  There, big front loaders and bulldozers pushed and lifted the gravel-laden material from the hills where it had rested for countless periods of time.  The material was moved to a waiting bin.  A conveyor belt then carried the material through a machine which washed it and cleaned the dirt and other debris from it.  Another conveyor carried the scrubbed gravel high into the air where it then dropped into an overhead storage bin.  The empty dump trucks moved under the bin one at a time, a lever opened the bottom of the bin, and the gravel fell into the waiting bed of the truck.  That truck pulled away to scurry off to the repaving site, and the process continued throughout the day.

As Grandpa waited at the gravel pit for his visit under the gravel bin, he stood outside his truck.  He reached into a rear pocket of his striped, bib overalls, and extracted a pouch of “Redman” chewing tobacco…his favorite “chaw.”  (It was also my favorite chewing tobacco.  I never attempted to chew any of it, but “Redman” was my favorite because each pouch of tobacco included a colorful trading card!  Each card had a portrait of, and interesting history about, an Indian…a Native American!  I always got the cards from Grandpa’s “Redman” chewing tobacco, and had amassed quite a collection!)

Grandpa put a pinch of the tobacco into his mouth, carefully folded the top of the pouch, and returned it to his back pocket.  It was then that I caught movement on my right, just out of my actual line of sight.  I turned in that direction, and watched as an old mule walked toward us!  The critter never waivered in its intent as it made a slow, beeline toward us.  I told Grandpa that a mule was approaching.  He seemed not to hear me as he stared straight ahead at the truck refilling operation.  The mule sauntered casually between Grandpa and me, opened its mouth, and with its teeth extracted Grandpa’s pouch of “Redman” from his back pocket!  The donkey’s teeth and lips latched onto the pouch as it shook the pouch in the air, apparently to attract Grandpa’s attention.  Grandpa turned around, faced the donkey, took the pouch from the animal’s teeth, loosened the rolled top, extracted a bit of tobacco, and placed it in the waiting donkey’s mouth!  He rolled the top of the pouch once again, and returned it to his back pocket…all without saying a word!  I stood in absolute amazement!

“Meet Jack,” Grandpa finally said.  “He lives here at the gravel pit.  You can see that he likes a good chaw!”

The donkey seemed exceptionally happy for the chaw of tobacco in his mouth.  He chewed and chewed as he slowly extracted the potent juice from the tobacco.  He raised and lowered his head several times, and let out a bray as if to say “Thank you” to Grandpa!  He remained beside us for a few minutes, then ambled away to visit yet another truck driver.

And that was my introduction to Jack, the Ass, mascot of the gravel pit which once existed on old State Highway 245 (275 at the time), just south and up the rise from where that roadway crossed over the railroad on the route between North Lewisburg and Urbana.  I saw Jack many times in the following days, and in the years to come when I traveled with Grandpa Impson as he fulfilled his duties as Rush Township driver.

The Talent Show

Paul Ross, one of the boys in our neighborhood, lived with his Grandmother Ross in a pleasant, loving house on East Street.  They lived next door to my uncle John Robert “Bobby” Impson, his wife Ethel Mae, and their sons Steve, Tim, Tom and Terry.  Around the neighborhood also  lived Susan Worley, Kenny and David Trout, Skipper Lantz and many other friends.

There was a large, detached garage at the Ross residence…perfect for our plan.  Kenny Trout was the primary organizer, but everyone pitched in to make our plan a success, encouraged by kindly Mrs. Ross.  We decided to host a talent show in that garage.

We cleaned up the place over a period of several days.  We made posters which advertised the great event, and distributed them around the neighborhood.  We worked on the various acts which were to become a part of the night’s attractions.  We gathered up old, castoff clothes to use as costumes – Mrs. Ross provided her sewing skills as coats, shirts, pants, dresses and skirts were rejuvenated.  We prepared scenery to be used for the many skits which we incorporated into the production. 

We practiced and practiced our assigned parts.  We worked on the jokes we intended to use that evening.  We polished the simple scripts which told the tales we portrayed onstage.
It was a grand production, worthy of something which the “Little Rascals” of the “Our Gang” comedy movies might have conceived and executed.  Kenny Trout worked hard in his role as master of ceremonies to perfect the show, and to make certain it came off without a hitch.

The big night came.  The garage, our temporary theater, was as clean, and organized, and decorated as we could possibly make it.  Our auditorium was outfitted with every possible combination of chairs, couches, sofas, and stools for the benefit of our audience.

The house lights dimmed, the curtain parted, and the night’s entertainment took place as each solo or group act appeared briefly on the stage.  There were songs, and skits, jokes, and pratfalls, instrumental music, and silliness.  There was laughter, and drama, hijinks, and mayhem.  The audience laughed and clapped and whistled as if on cue.  The performers had great fun while entertaining the crowd.  It was a great success!

All too soon, the houselights came up, the curtain opened, and the cast and crew gave their final bows.  The show was over.

It was never repeated.  It was just one of those spontaneous events associated with our youth that developed, and blossomed, and grew.   It was one of those times when we young people showed that we could accomplish wonderful things, while having fun at the same time.  We were neighbors.  We were there to help each other enjoy life to the fullest.  We were young!  We were happy!  And, oh…we were so very, very talented!

The Simpson Family

The Simpson family…Floyd, Jr. (aka “Peck”), Delores, and Barbara…moved into the house which had been previously owned by Ray and Ruby Patrick.  Floyd was the son of Floyd Simpson, Sr., a notable character in the North Lewisburg area, who resided on a farm about two miles north of the community, just off Highway 559.  Peck was the rural mail carrier for the area.  He began his duties each weekday morning at the post office on Maple Street.  There, he quickly sorted and arranged the incoming mail for distribution to the many people who lived along his rural route.  Letters, packages, newspapers, flyers, postcards, and other “stuff” were quickly assembled and placed in his automobile in the front and rear seats and trunk.  It was all arranged in such a way as to permit him easy access to it, and in accordance with the way he followed his mail route. 

Many times Peck was assisted in the sorting and preparation of his mail.  Dorothy Spain worked in the post office for a number of years, and undoubtedly assisted from time to time.  Peck was also helped by his wife, Delores, who was likewise employed in the post office as a clerk.

Their daughter, Barbara, was the same age as my sister Cheryl (aka “Peachie”).  An only child, Barbara was well cared for by not only her parents, but also her maternal grandmother.  She had a spacious bedroom on the second floor of the Simpsons impressive home.  The neighborhood girls who were her age enjoyed gathering at Barbara’s home to play.

 Peck and Delores were popular people in the North Lewisburg area.   They also had many friends from the Middleburg area.  They gathered at each others’ homes for many different social events, to include the regular Euchre games and tournaments. 

 Once they traveled to Hawaii to enjoy the scenic splendor of that series of islands.  When they returned home to Ohio, Peck and Delores invited my mother and me to view the home movies they had taken while they were there.  On the appointed evening, Mom and I crossed the street, and were welcomed into their home.  Peck and Delores were gracious hosts as they displayed the 8 mm movies on their home screen.  As one of the captured scenes appeared on the screen, Mom said “Ralph is buried there,” the first time she talked while the movies ran.  Peck took note of that.  When the reel ended, he turned on the living room lights.  He asked Mom to elaborate on what she had said during the screening.

Mom explained that one of the scenes showed the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater, near Honolulu, Hawaii.  She pointed out that my father, Ralph L. Coleman, was buried in that cemetery.  Peck and Delores both listened intently as Mom spoke.

When she finished, Peck said “I had no idea Ralph was buried there.  If I had known I would have made it a point to take pictures at his gravesite.”

He was very apologetic as he removed the reel, dismantled the projector, lowered the screen, and put all of his equipment away.

 He turned to Mom.  “Kate, if I had known that he was buried there, I would have found a way to take you with us on our trip.”  It was a kindly remark, and Mom expressed her appreciation for it.  I saw tears welling in her eyes.

 “Mom,” I said. “I’m going to take you to Hawaii someday so you can visit Dad’s grave.”  I made the remark with all of the promise that I could muster as an eleven year old boy.  Mom and I thanked Peck and Delores, exited the house, and re-crossed the street to our own home.

 Time passed.  A great deal of time, to be sure.  In 1975, I realized one of my goals and aspirations in life when I was assigned to duty with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.  As a young Private First Class in the Army with a wife, and two young sons to provide for, I was unable to do much at the time.  But, during 1976, we managed to save enough money to provide a roundtrip air ticket for Mom to travel to Hawaii to visit with us.  She came with my sister, Charma Lee, who paid all of her own expenses.  They arrived in Honolulu in late September of that year.  My wife, two sons, and I met them at the airport, and drove them immediately to the National Cemetery of the Pacific.  It was almost closing time as we traveled through the entrance to the cemetery, wound our way around the roadways, and parked near an overhanging tree.  We walked the short distance to my father’s gravesite.  I carried my two sons, Ralph III (aka “Chip”) and Jared, one in each arm.  Mom walked beside us; Sharon and Charma walked on the other side.  We approached the inscribed stone.  I put the boys down to let them walk, and escorted Mom to the grave.  She stood there for just a few seconds in silent contemplation.  She sat down her handbag, removed her sunglasses, wiped her eyes, and gently lowered herself to the ground.  As she stretched out beside Dad’s grave, she rolled toward it and in one gesture she placed her arm over it as if to embrace him. 

“This is the closest I have been to your Dad since 1944,” she said, her voice husky with emotion.  “Thank you for keeping your promise.”
I had made that promise to her twenty-five years before in Peck and Delores Simpson’s living room.  I promised to take her to Hawaii to visit my Dad’s grave.  I fulfilled that promise.

It was a wonderful time for us as Mom and Charma visited in Hawaii.  We were able to take them to the cemetery one more time before they departed on their return trip to Ohio.  We were able to show them the many beautiful sights throughout Hawaii, and to expose them to a culture unlike any they had experienced in Ohio.  And, in keeping with the way good things sometimes happen, they were there to welcome the birth of my third son, Tad Jeffrey, just a few days later.  Coincidentally, Tad was born in Tripler Army Hospital, the very same military hospital where his grandfather…my father PFC Ralph Lowell Coleman…died of wounds received in action during World War II.  The world, and time, had turned full circle.

The Old Neighborhood


One of the great things about growing up in a small town is the associations which are made with neighbors.  My experiences while residing in North Lewisburg can only be described as “exceptional.”

             I lived in the small, white house at the corner of Sycamore Street and North Street for twelve years.  Sycamore Street was our thoroughfare for travel to the booming “downtown” section of the community.  North Street was to our west, and up a gently rising hill.  It was fronted on both sides by houses…homes of friends…whom we all came to appreciate and love.

            Immediately to the west of our house was the home of Billy and Lydia Curl.  The house was a two-story, box shaped wooden structure, painted a light yellow shade with white trim.  The yard was well-seeded, bright green, and projected a manicured look.  The yard was kept neatly mowed and trimmed during the summer and fall months.  There were stately pine trees on the grounds, which sheltered a couple of outbuildings which were painted in the same color scheme as the house.  One of the buildings was a kennel; the Curls raised champion Boston Terrier dogs.  The parlor of their home was filled with trophies and ribbons which attested to their skill and expertise as breeders and trainers. There was a wonderful Granny apple tree which stood just a short distance away from the house, near a huge window which faced to the east.  It was there that Billy situated himself in the house each evening, seated in a huge, overstuffed easy chair, bright floor lamp behind his shoulder, as he slowly, and methodically, read the evening newspaper.  William D. “Billy” Curl was one of the town’s barbers.  His wife Lydia was a hairdresser.  They worked out of their store which was adjacent to the Hiway 559 Coffee Shop on Sycamore Street, in the “downtown” area.  They were mature adults when I knew them as neighbors; their children had grown up and moved away many years before.

             Lydia was a prolific knitter.  She worked all year long to produce copious numbers of scarves, and mittens, and slippers in intricate colors and styles.  She gave these away each Christmas season to family, and neighbors, and friends.  Lydia and Billy rarely crossed the gravel driveway which separated them from us…except at Christmas when they made the short journey ladened with knitted gifts, oranges, walnuts, and other treats.

             Up North Street, the next house was the home of Curtis and Lucille Moody.  Curtis, like many of the men in the community, made the workday commute to Grimes Manufacturing Company in Urbana.  He was a handsome man, with a full head of dark, wavy hair.  He had a captivating smile, a great laugh, and was known and respected throughout the North Lewisburg community for his work ethic, sense of humor, and devotion to his wife, mother, and siblings.  He was an original “good neighbor Sam,” a man who was there to lend a helping hand when the situation called for it and asked nothing in return.

            His wife, Lucille, was an attractive woman who managed the household while caring for their two children, Marilyn and Chuck.  Lucille kept a very tidy home, and was very popular with the neighbors.  She could often be found outside the home in the warm months of the year as she planted and nurtured the many flowers which graced the lawn.  The two-story house was attractive, with shingles which were light green in color.  It could easily be described as “typical” of the 1950s era.

            A new house was built adjacent to the Moody home in the 1950s on what had been up until then a vacant field…an area where the kids of the neighborhood caught fireflies and butterflies, and chased each other in games of tag and hide-and-seek.  The Kline family who lived there did not mingle much with the “old timers” who surrounded them

            Next up the hill was the Borst family home.  Mrs. Borst, a widow for most of those years, there raised her family of three:  Phyllis, Jim, and Suzanne.  It was a busy household, where Mrs. Borst worked as a sole parent while at the same time working outside the home as a caregiver for homebound residents of the community.  Phyllis was very popular with her fellow students at North Lewisburg High School.  Jim, one of the male role models we young boys all looked up to, often traded comic books with me.  Suzanne was friends with my younger sister, Cheryl (aka “Peachie”).  The house was a beautiful one, somewhat Victorian in appearance, with a huge lawn and beautifully-scented lilac bushes.

            Carl and Mary Keene owned the next house.  They operated the town’s pharmacy, or “drug store,” which they had acquired from Mary’s father, Harry Brown.  He was still employed there as a pharmacist and clerk because he never really “retired” once he sold the business.  The house was beautifully fitted with dark shingles and painted trim.  There was a spacious back yard where they sometimes entertained family and friends.  In later years, the house was the home of Tommy and Marilyn Arthur.  Tommy, the son of Tom and Evelyn Arthur, operated the meat department in the family IGA store.

The next house on the same side of the street was the home of Dick Spain and his family.  He operated his own excavation and heavy equipment business.  The two-story house had a detached garage which was often used as Mike Spain’s playground area.  Mike, one of my best friends in those early years, mimicked his father with his own scaled-down, peddle operated bulldozer…one which every boy wanted to operate when Mike was visited.  In later years, the house was owned by Neal and Doris Smith, another popular couple who were well-known for their community involvement, skill as square dancers, Neal’s work as a carpenter, and Doris’ longtime career as a newspaper reporter.

             There was an expansive open field area then, followed by a green-shingled house which stood on the corner, shaded by overgrown trees. This was the home of Herman and Rachel Graham, and sons Mickey and David.  It was a gathering place for boys and girls of all ages who went there to play “Monopoly” in the open-walled cellar beneath the house.  Games stretched over days, but inevitably the winner was always Mickey.  He was a prolific game-player, and exceptionally talented baseball player.  I had my own experiences with him while playing on competing Little League baseball teams in the mid-1950s.

            Around the corner, at the north end, was the home of Harold and Emma Short, and their kids.  Eugene was a year or so ahead of me in school.  His brother, Robert “Bob” Short, was bright, good natured, and very scholastically competitive.  We were friends at play, at school, and ad work…Bob and I worked for the same period of time at Arthur’s IGA store.

            At the crest of North Street was the beautifully maintained home of Paul and Virginia Reid, their sons Tom and Jim, and daughter Diane.  When I first came to know them, the patriarchal grandfather, George Reid, also lived with them.  I was there on the grounds one day playing with Tom and Jim when Jim Freshwater, the town’s funeral director, came in the hearse to carry their grandfather away when he suddenly died.

            I spent a great deal of my youth playing at that farm during my preteen years.  It was a wonderful place, filled with great hiding places for those exciting hide-and-go-seek games.  With our Daisy B-B guns we disrupted the lives of many, many pigeons which sought shelter in the high trusses of the mammoth barn.  We created great tunnels in the hay lofts, shucked corn in the covered grain storage bins, and even found buried treasure in the lawn.  And the secretive pool games in the basement of the house were legendary!

            On the other side of the street stood the home of George Bishop, a skilled carpenter and jack-of-all-trades who spent a great deal of his time at the old Buckwalter Hardware Store.  This later became the home of Gene and Ruth Coleman.

            Adjacent to that house was the new home constructed for Merle Creviston and his family.  As a young neighborhood boy I had the rare opportunity to help nail in place the subfloor of that house while it was under construction.

            The Max Westfall family, and the Forrest Cooper family, were also neighbors on that side of the street.  Max, the town’s postmaster, also continued to farm his family’s property between North Lewisburg and Woodstock.  The Reverend Forrest Cooper was a popular minister in the community, well-known for his marriage ceremonies, his Sunday sermons, and his funeral services.

             An elderly lady occupied one of the houses on that street.  We were all probably unkind to her as kids’ rumors and tall tales made us gullible to the belief that she was a “witch” of sorts.  For this reason alone we kids avoided anything to do with visiting her house.

            Foster Graham lived in yet another of the houses on that side of the street.  He was a professional carpenter and painter, and was kept busy with his many contracted projects around the community.  His son, Chester (aka “Chet”) lived and worked with him.  He had an attractive home, with many outbuildings all painted and decorated to match.  He had a vast area of the grounds which was devoted to delicious grapes, and a well-maintained garden spot.

             The last house on the corner was the home of Burley and Maude Furrow.  It was a large, wooden house in sore need of paint.  The wood had aged to a dark chocolate color.  With its ornate trim at the gables and in other areas, it looked like a fancy chocolate cake!  Their grandkids gathered there just about every Sunday to enjoy dinner with them.  Maude often served as a babysitter for Cheryl and me when we were much younger.  She was a terrific cook and baker.  I loved her pies and cakes!  That house was eventually torn down, along with the adjacent one owned by my Grandpa and Grandpa Impson.  Harlow and Elaine Chapman built a lovely new home on the grounds, with a lavish garden, fruit trees, and lawn.

            The old neighborhood looks much the same today, some sixty years later.  The houses and grounds are still there.  New, unfamiliar faces occupy the houses.  Another generation of kids play in the yards, roam the streets, and grow up together.  When I visit there in my mind’s eye, I see the faces of adults and kids who once lived there.  I hear the sounds of laughter as the kids play, and as the families gather in back yards to enjoy yet another barbeque or cookout.  I smell the sweet odor of freshly cut lawns, or the scent which accompanied the ritual of raking and burning leaves in the fall.  I am content, and happy to visit the old neighborhood and its many memories.